Is it or isn’t it?

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By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — Whether Coeur d’Alene is a suitable place for a performing arts center is a question that has been bandied about.

The answer may be unveiled when the results of a study being conducted by a Chicago firm paid by ignite cda — Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency — are released this spring.

The 12-week study, which was initiated Feb. 26, will be done before summer.

“We’re trying to determine if we have a large enough market here to make a performing arts center work,” Coeur d’Alene council member Dan Gookin said.

Gookin was among a group that met last week to gauge progress of the study and its interaction with local arts groups, although he said many in the local performing arts community aren’t aware of the study to determine if Coeur d’Alene is active enough to support its own major music and theatre venue.

HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting, of Chicago, was hired under a $62,750 contract for the feasibility study with several questions in mind.

The study will determine if a performing arts center can sustain itself, which groups will use the facility, and if a newer, larger center would compete with existing venues, said Nicole Kahler of CDA 2030, the organization overseeing the study for the city and ignite cda.

“We have no interest in building a facility that will compete negatively with what we already have here,” Kahler said.

Part of the process which led to the study began over a year ago, Kahler said.

“We invited as many user groups as possible and asked them to get involved and share what their needs are,” she said. “We continue to encourage people to communicate with us.”

The economic impact of a performing arts center, its potential to indirectly attract businesses and visitors, and potential revenues will be investigated. The study will also look at project cost, building size, and locations best suited for a multimillion dollar facility.

City administrators, arts groups and patrons have for many years mulled a large center for the Lake City, but the study commissioned with the blessing of all those groups is the first time concrete steps have been taken to realize the goal.

“For years, many of our citizens have voiced an interest in having a performing arts center,” Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer said. “This study will gauge the level of interest that there is in having a center and if it is something that is financially viable.”

The study is a good investment to determine answers to questions that were relegated to informal discussions in the past.

“It’s always good to do a study like this especially if we’re going to spend public money, or create a new taxing district,” Gookin said.

HVS — which specializes in the hospitality industry, including casinos, hotels, golf courses, convention, entertainment, and sports facilities — was chosen from among 11 consultants. The company has more than 50 offices worldwide.

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